Thursday, October 13, 2011

Noch einmal, mit Gefühl

A few weeks ago a friend of mine introduced me to the recordings of the Brahms symphonies which Marin Alsop made with the London Symphony Orchestra. They're lovely, dancerly in some places where I've grown up hearing ponderousness, and generally luminous. My friend thinks it's because Alsop is a woman. "Women hear differently," she explained; after all, one hears with one's whole body. I've been mulling that intriguing observation over ever since.

Today I brought it up in class, as we were discussing McGuire's sophisticated and often surprising discussion of gender and lived religion. Students had come up with many examples of religious traditions where women and men have different experiences because of different roles, different access to spaces, etc. Is it only cultural construction of gender she's getting at, I asked, and let the image of a person at the center of an orchestra playing Brahms frame the difficult and historically fraught question of gender and religious experience. It made everyone uncomfortable. A good thing?

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